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Richard Glossip Has Survived 3 Execution Dates. Now He’s Set for a Fourth.


Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip

This Feb. 19, 2021, photo provided by Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Richard Glossip. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP File)

Richard Glossip, an inmate on Oklahoma’s death row, had a message for those advocating his innocence last year: “God has spared me many times, and I know that he will spare me again.” 

Glossip, 59, was referring to his state’s three failed attempts to take his life over the last 25 years. The first, back in 2015, was delayed due to a Supreme Court case against the state. The second, later that year, was stayed a mere three hours before Glossip was scheduled to be put to death. A new execution date was set for that same month but was then cancelled after the state discovered they had the wrong drug.

Now, Oklahoma is ready to try again. At the start of July, officials set his fourth execution date, for Sept. 22. Glossip is one of 25 inmates who have had their executions scheduled in Oklahoma over the next 29 months. 

Glossip was convicted of murder-for-hire after a hitman named Justin Sneed testified that Glossip paid him to kill Barry Van Treese, who owned the motel where Glossip worked, in 1997. In exchange for Sneed’s testimony against Glossip, Sneed received life in prison. Glossip, however, was sentenced to death in 2004. 

There’s also been unprecedented bipartisan support for Glossip in Oklahoma—34 lawmakers, including 28 Republicans, want him to be retried—as well as persistent claims that he’s innocent. 

“If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty, simply because the process is not pure,” Oklahoma Republican Rep. Kevin McDugle said in June.

When Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt refused to order a new investigation into Glossip’s case, Oklahoma lawmakers had an external law firm review the evidence. That report— based on a review of 12,000 documents, 36 witness interviews, seven juror interviews, and other evidence concluded that Glossip’s “trial cannot be relied on to support a murder-for-hire-conviction. Nor can it provide a basis for the government to take the life of Richard E. Glossip.” There have also been allegations that prosecutors destroyed vital evidence during Glossip’s trial. 

Courts have reversed convictions for or exonerated 11 inmates sentenced to death in the same county Glossip was convicted in, according to Death Penalty Information Center. “Snitch testimony,” which involves an incarcerated individual testifying against someone else, is also the leading cause of wrongful convictions in capital cases, accounting for 45 percent of wrongful death penalty convictions since 1973, according to Innocence Project.

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Anti-death penalty activists, including members of MoveOn.org and other advocay groups rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in a final attempt to prevent the execution of Oklahoma inmate Richard Glossip on September 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Legal experts, death penalty opponents, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans have fought tirelessly to prevent the execution of Glossip. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org)

Glossip’s new execution date comes after a judge decided the state was indeed capable of carrying out executions using lethal injections, despite a deluge of lawsuits arguing the lack of proper drugs and protocols have led to a spate of botched executions and constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment. 

Glossip became the lead plaintiff in the 2015 landmark case Glossip v. Gross, after an autopsy showed that Oklahoma used the wrong drug to stop Charles Warner’s heart. In that opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer famously dissented against the court’s decision that using midazolam to kill death row inmates wasn’t cruel and unusual. 

The state was so intent on killing Glossip that they wanted to use the wrong drug again in his third scheduled execution before then-Gov. Mary Fallin halted it at the last minute. 

“Richard Glossip has been through three tortuous execution dates already. It does not serve justice to set a fourth execution date for an innocent man before all this new evidence can be fully considered in a court of law,” Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, said in a statement. “Public reaction to this new evidence makes clear that Oklahomans, even those who support the death penalty, do not want to see an innocent man executed.”

Regardless, Glossip’s about to embark on the same process he’s been through three times already: moving cell-by-cell closer to the execution chamber, being watched 24/7, and saying goodbye to his loved ones. 

For his last meal, Glossip will likely order the same four items he’s chosen every time: fish and chips, a Wendy’s Baconator, a strawberry shake, and pizza.

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